The Detroit Lions (3-2) look to get back on the winning track Sunday against the Cleveland Browns (3-2) who are riding a three-game win streak. Here are five keys to the game for the Lions.
1. If Calvin Johnson (knee) doesn’t play, every member of the offense has to step up its game a notch. One wide receiver can’t just fill in for Johnson, it takes a village. Clearly his absence hurt the offense in the loss at Green Bay. His status is questionable just like last week.
2. Matthew Stafford has to make better, quicker decisions. It’s easier when Johnson is on the field than when he’s not. He was sacked five times last week compared to just three times in the first four games. It wasn’t all on the offensive line although they have to dig in for the Browns’ front seven.
3. It’s Cleveland’s defense that has carried the team which has struggled offensively. They can not be taken lightly. Stafford and the offense must find the best way to exploit them.
4. Get the ball to Joe Fauria. The 6-foot-7 tight end, known as Big Joe, has four catches this season — two of them for touchdowns. With Tony Scheffler out with a concussion, Fauria should see more playing time.
5. The Lions’ defense must take advantage of an offense that had come to life under quarterback Brian Hoyer (Michigan State) until he was lost for the season last week. The Browns’ quarterbacks have been sacked 22 times in five games, losing 155 yards. The Lions’ defense should get its fair share of sacks Sunday.
Prediction: Lions 24, Browns 17